The post of the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) president may not be as big and powerful as FIFA’s, but the race for the job is just as tense.
Rarely has the FAT’s presidential election held as much significance as this time, as the outcome of the voting on Friday will go a long way to defining the future of Thai football.
Any optimism people had on the day when Worawi Makudi, who also held such prestigious role as the FIFA executive board member, was appointed as the FAT chief in 2007 proved misplaced. Rather than ushering Thai football into the bright future as many had hoped, Worawi’s reign was ironically even worse than Vijit Ketkaew’s, which was widely derided as the dark age.
Vijit faced criticism that the sport came to a standstill during his time in office, although there was no shortage of success at regional level for the country. That was a marked difference between Worawi and his predecessor, as Thailand now could not consider themselves as the leading nation in the region anymore.
The chastening experience in the Laos-hosted SEA Games two years ago where the Thai side, bidding to win the title for ninth consecutive time, tumbled out of the group stage for the first time in 36 years represented the team’s most glaring failure during Worawi’s reign.
Thailand’s poor run of results fueled the fans’ dissatisfaction with Worawi’s work to such a level that even the unpopular Vijit never faced during his years. The abject nature of the country’s first-round elimination in the ASEAN Championship, co-hosted by Indonesia and Malaysia in December, where they went out without a single win, was a final straw for fans.
In the aftermath of the debacle in Malaysia, fans used the social networking websites to organise a campaign demanding the resignation of Worawi and they staged two public protests at the FAT headquarter and Channel 3 television station. During the heat of the event, Worawi had a TV interview about his stance on the pressure from the public, saying he did not do anything wrong to leave the post.
Worawi made his intentions clear that he wanted to cling on to the job but the prospect of another term in office looked under the threat when rumour had it that Vijit would run for the post.
That was why Worawi, who served as the FAT general secretary during Vijit’s regime, tried to amend the FAT Statues, attempting to make it go in line with FIFA’s requirements. However, it was construed that he only attempted to reduce the number of members who have the right to vote, due to Vijit's reportedly sizeable support.
However, it was revealed later that the two were working on the same side as Worawi agreed on a secret deal that if he won the election he would allow Vijit to take care of internal business while he deals with international affairs.
Everything seemed to fall in to place for Worawi until Pichate Munkong, the former president of Thai Port FC club, last week confirmed his candidacy for the FAT post.
He outlined his policy which included disposing former England and Manchester United captain Bryan Robson of the role as the national team coach. He also pledged no one needed to call for his head since he would step down immediately in the event Thailand failed to reclaim the SEA Games title in November in Indonesia.
Many of Pichate’s policies reflected a good vision for Thai football, such as putting more emphasis on the development of national youth team.
So, it came as no surprise to find that he had the support of a good majority of the public and fans. Unfortunately, fans have no right to vote even though they are one of the key stakeholders on the matters.